Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
Satoko Fujii — Hyaku: One Hundred Dreams
(Libra 209-071, 2022, CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2023-08-07
Here at Exposé, we’ve reviewed more than 50 albums featuring pianist Satoko Fujii, but that represents only about half of her releases. In fact, the album at hand, Hyaku - One Hundred Dreams, is so titled because it is her 100th release as a leader. Doing the math: The first of these was in 1996, so over the course of 26 years, she has produced 100 albums, for an average of just over four per year. That’s not taking into account albums she was involved with but not leading. One way or another, that’s an incredibly prolific career, and she shows no signs of slowing down, with several new releases since Hyaku. For this auspicious occasion, she assembled an elite crew in New York to realize this Dream, and it’s hard to argue with her choices. The group features Fujii on piano along with Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet), Natsuki Tamura (trumpet), Ikue Mori (electronics), Brandon Lopez (bass), Tom Rainey (drums), and Chris Corsano (drums). With such an assemblage of distinctive players, the result is bound to sound like nothing else, so while in broad strokes it resembles some of Fujii’s other large ensemble work, in detail it’s very different. Schoenbeck’s bassoon is a big part of this, as it’s not an instrument often heard in jazz. “One Hundred Dreams” is a five-part suite coming in just shy of an hour in length, and it runs the gamut of Fujii’s ideas, from frenetic group passages with sweeping lyrical themes to sparse stretches of meditative calm. What you won’t hear is anything from the pre-free jazz tradition: no walking bass lines for soloists, no unison heads followed by flashy choruses, no punchy ensemble arrangements. Her modus operandi here, as with most of her group outings, is predetermined themes with various kinds of signposts marking transitions from one section to the next. Much of the time, piano is absent from the mix — presumably Fujii is directing the proceedings, but it’s certainly interesting that she celebrates this milestone with an album where she doesn’t play much. By its sheer variety of tone colors, Hyaku stands out in Fujii’s catalog, and is a very satisfying listen.
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